VIC Threat to Sue You for Defamation - Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP)

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Lillium

Member
26 August 2021
2
0
1
We have had numerous issues with a builder constructing next door over the last year (not complying with various building regulations, encroaching with their construction into our property, damaging our property, bullying behaviour towards us, etc.).

Anyway, I left a one-star Google review for this builder, and wrote that I would wait for their response back before posting photos and other evidence/information. I also wrote that people should keep an open mind with their sales pitch, and I made another comment about how the builder likes to distort reality.

They responded back falsely claiming that I had been abusive towards their staff and that they would sue me for defamation. I should point out that this builder has quite a number of staff, as evidenced by Facebook posts (showing 17 staff in one photo loaded up in March 2020), their website (showing the same photo) and in their LinkedIn profile (which states they have 11 to 50 staff).

I should also point out that the builder defamed me in an email that was sent to my neighbour, their draftsperson and my husband in March 2021, and I am currently in the process of undertaking FOI requests to prove this defamation (in light of the builder's actions below).

A few days later I spoke with someone who had used the builder to construct a property for them, and was advised of all the significant issues they had had with this builder, but was also told that until about a year ago there used to be 58 negative Google reviews for the builder that all of a sudden disappeared.

I added to my Google review a comment for people to contact me with their honest experiences if they had used this builder and provided an email address, and my Google review was immediately removed (somehow) by this builder. I definitely did not remove it. I also tried to put the same post (about people contacting me with their honest experience about this builder) up on other websites and in all cases (apart from one) I was unsuccessful in getting my post put up.

Anyway, last Friday I got a letter from a law firm stating that I have to remove all posts with false statements and I have to write a letter of apology to the builder for defaming them! They claimed that I defamed the builder by pretending to be a customer, which I never stated and in the response back from the builder (on the same day as my post) they stated I was a neighbour.

I believe very strongly that this is a classic SLAPP, so was planning to ignore the lawyer's letter, but I'm mindful that this might not be the right course of action. I have until tomorrow to respond back to the lawyer
 

Tim W

Lawyer
LawTap Verified
28 April 2014
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748
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Sydney
They might just be right - Only customers get to leave reviews.

Just to be clear - it's not a SLAPP.
There is no public interest question involved.
This is a dispute between two private entities.

Perhaps you reply with something like
"Well, how about you tell me exactly
which ones you claim are false,
and I'll consider each one in turn".
 

Lillium

Member
26 August 2021
2
0
1
They might just be right - Only customers get to leave reviews.

Just to be clear - it's not a SLAPP.
There is no public interest question involved.
This is a dispute between two private entities.

Perhaps you reply with something like
"Well, how about you tell me exactly
which ones you claim are false,
and I'll consider each one in turn".
Hi Tim - Thank you for responding. I guess you are stating that I should definitely reply back? Also, in regards to the number of employees the builder has, I would have thought they could not bring a case for defamation (ie 17 staff in one photo from March 2020 with company logo tops on, and their LinkedIn profile stating they have 11 to 50 staff).
 

Tim W

Lawyer
LawTap Verified
28 April 2014
4,230
748
2,894
Sydney
I guess you are stating that I should definitely reply back?
Nope. I'm not telling you that you "should" or "should not" anything.
No where near enough facts available for that.
I'm just commenting on what I can see in front of me.

The only thing you should do is make an appointment with a solicitor
who will give you fully considered, case specific, advice.
 

Rod

Lawyer
LawTap Verified
27 May 2014
7,201
969
2,894
You are making an assumption the company you posted about is the same company with the employees.

This assumption is not necessarily true. Some companies split out their workforce to another company and while they may be a related entity, they may not be. Some shareholdings provide the required isolation and protection allowing a defamation claim. This issue alone is not straight forward.

I agree with @Tim in that Google reviews are for customers, and they are not an opportunity for any person to post comments because they can.

We can assist if you need help working out the best way forward.